Charman Prize exhibition better than past years, says art critic Zuill
This year’s Charman Prize exhibition at the Masterworks Museum is, in my estimation, one of the better Charman Prize shows.
Not everybody agrees. I have been told by some that they think it weak.
In the past the Charman Prize exhibition was essentially an unjuried show. Just about all submissions were accepted – good, bad and otherwise. The difference this time round is that the museum management, acting as jurors, have eliminated maybe the worst of the entries.
As I understand it, Masterworks invites several knowledgeable individuals to select the winners from all the works that make it into the show. In that sense the show is juried, but that is all they do. They do not select the actual exhibition.
Whatever the process, by eliminating the worst of the entries, the end result appears to be an improvement in artistic standards.
But what are artistic standards? When it comes to the arts, we are dealing with a lot of subjectivity. Still, it seems that there has been a betterment in artistic skills such as drawing, application of paint, design and composition and so on.
I can only guess what others found weak about this show. Could it be the quality of the exhibition lighting? I found it way too dim and dull. By contrast, the neighbouring Rick Faries Gallery is brightly lit making for ease of viewing.
In regard to the lighting, I have been told that this is caused by technical problems – hence the dimness in the main galleries. That is regrettable as it makes for unpleasant viewing and is really a disservice to the art and the artists.
Having spent a lifetime dealing with the arts, however, I am very aware that art institutions are frequently the “stepchild” when it comes to financing. But in the case of Masterworks’ lighting problem, just maybe there is someone in the local community who might be willing to underwrite upgrading their lighting system.
As for the current Charman Prize exhibition, now that we know about their lighting issues we can at least bring to it some understanding.
Now for the show. Many of the works, although well crafted, tend to the decorative. Only a handful go beyond that to more profound aspects. A small, mixed-media collage of watercolour and etching by Elizabeth Ann Trott is one such example. It is entitled Rebirth and is notably gutsy.
Another is Sea of Dreams by Cheryl Hayeem. It is a large abstract made up of spherical forms and colour contrasts suggesting the mysteries of the deep.
Christina Hutchings’s South Shore Whales Annual Visit, is another small creation that highlights the fact that although bigness may by its very size make an impact, small works, by contrast, draw one into itself in intimacy.
Based loosely on a dream, Graham Foster’s Strange Days Indeed, is a continuation of his investigation of the surreal. His submission pictures a world in disintegration while at the same time attempting to keep up the appearance of normality.
Although compositionally simple, Coming and Going by Antoine Hunt is deceptively ambiguous.
It is a work that needs contemplation and requires time.
One more example: Libby Cook-Toppan’s Snail Halo is a digital photograph on archival canvas with hand-printed details. It is of technical, as well as aesthetic interest in that it is really an unusual mix of materials. The artist’s subject is also unusual, but thinking back to her earlier Charman Prize submissions, she seems to have a penchant for close details of whatever she fancies.
• The Charman Prize exhibition continues through April at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.